In 2022, we saw many organizations struggle to meet consumer and industry demands due to the ever-growing disruption of supply chains across all industries. Between labor shortages, high shipping costs, Covid-19, and geopolitical issues, businesses around the world took a massive hit. With it being a time of uncertainty, organizations are looking for solutions to overcome these types of challenges should they arise in the future. The simple answer to avoiding future disruptions is Automation and AI. In this article, we highlight 3 ways to automate your supply chain in 2023.
We believe that AI and automation solutions for supply chain management are only going to continue to grow throughout 2023 and beyond. With the objective of increasing end-to-end visibility and transparency of an entire supply chain, automation and AI are the best solutions for better mitigating potential disruptions, and improving supply chain performance. Here are 3 ways a performance-driven business can take to defend against uncertainty, and substantially improve the efficiency and productivity of operations.
1. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
RFID is the wireless non-contact use of radio frequency waves to transfer data using tags, readers, and antennas, in an effort to automatically identify and track inventory and assets. RFID takes auto-ID technology to the next level by allowing tags to be read without a line of sight and, depending on the type of RFID, having a read range between a few centimeters to over 20+ meters.
Compared to traditional barcode scanning for inventory control, RFID provides huge labor savings. Instead of a worker finding and scanning a barcode, RFID does not require direct line-of-sight. A fixed or mounted reader can capture all tags over a large area in a fraction of the time when compared to traditional 1D/2D laser scanners. With RFID components working in harmony, true inventory accuracy can be achieved in a fraction of the time a traditional cycle count requires.
For example, an RFID tag attached to an automobile during production can be used to track its progress through the assembly line, RFID-tagged pharmaceuticals can be tracked through warehouses, and tags can also be used in shops to expedite checkout, and to prevent theft by customers and employees.
RFID is an incredible application of technology for accuracy, efficiency, and security in the supply chain. RFID provides a unique identifier on materials or goods that can be read almost instantaneously, providing systems with information for automation and decision-making. In order to maximize those benefits, it is important to properly configure and tune RFID readers for the operating environment.
2. Warehouse Management Software
Back office tasks and paperwork can significantly benefit from automation. Employees in the supply chain department continuously store and process documents for various reasons, yet, this is a time-consuming, manual task that inhibits businesses from reaching operational excellence.
This is where a Warehouse Management System (WMS) comes in. A WMS which comes in the form of customizable software is a set of policies and processes intended to organize the work of a warehouse or distribution center, and provide insights into tracking and management of receiving, internal material movements, shipping transactions, and more. By implementing a well-structured WMS, businesses can achieve nearly end-to-end document automation (involving tasks like data capture, understanding information on the document, and sending the document to the relevant person).
Statistics show that organizations generally attain a 25% increase in productivity, a 20% gain in space usage, and a 30% improvement in stock use efficiency if they use integrated order processing for their inventory system.
Robotic process automation (RPA) can also be used to improve supply chain back office tasks. According to a survey done on organizations from around the world, 44% of the participants expect RPA to have a significant or moderate impact on supply chains by 2023. They also stated that a careful implementation of RPA can have significant and positive effects on supply chain productivity and efficiency. Therefore, supply chain leaders need to start focusing more on implementing RPA in their supply chain back office operations.
3. AI, Machine Learning, and Analytics
Every modern supply chain has a vast treasure trove of data that can unlock insights into complex global supply networks. By harnessing a combination of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and predictive analytics, companies can automate warehouse operations, improve delivery times, proactively manage inventory, optimize strategic sourcing relationships, and create new customer experiences that increase satisfaction and boost sales.
Intelligent automation solutions power transformative outcomes and deliver unmatched enterprise visibility to make sharper decisions fueled by data-driven intelligence. Pairing man with machine like never before, solutions such as autonomous mobile robots or prescriptive analytics can transform your operations into dynamic and highly efficient workflows.
Robots have long played a role in the supply chain, used to move goods and materials throughout a warehouse, during transport, and as part of the fulfillment process. But as AI technologies push robots to higher levels of sophistication, machines will be assigned many manual tasks now owned by humans, from picking and packing orders to automating heavy loading tasks, liberating workers from repetitive tasks so that they contribute where they add the most value.
AI in the supply chain is here to stay and make waves in the years to come. According to Gartner, supply chain organizations expect the level of machine automation in their supply chain processes to double in the next five years.
ValuTrack is a provider of end-to-end supply chain, enterprise mobility, and automated identification and data capture (AIDC) solutions for performance-driven organizations. We will take a deep dive into your organization’s supply chain to understand its inner workings. Our experts will look at your physical work environment, technology infrastructure, hardware, product flow, business processes, and other factors. From there, our team of industry-specific experts will then work closely with you and your organization to understand your goals, provide insight into best practices, and establish a metrics-focused strategy that will deliver outstanding value. Talk to us today about some of the challenges you currently face. We are more than happy to sit down and discuss solutions that address your current challenges as well as options that set you up for future success and growth.
Today’s fast-paced operations demand undisrupted efficiency and complete visibility. That’s why when Hunt Country Components sought to optimize its tracking system, ValuTrack empowered its manufacturing facilities with Zebra’s purpose-built RFID technologies to achieve maximum visibility and operational excellence. We provide a complete portfolio of RFID products and services to promote future growth.